The Dark Side of the workforce: Car dealer, 64, nicknamed Yoda because of his age was sacked for being too old, tribunal rules
Michael Nolan was subjected to taunts about his age by colleaguesBosses at Evans Halshaw wanted to replace him with someone youngerHe was put on a 'shortlist of one' when redundancies came aroundA tribunal ruled that he was discriminated against because of his age
08:23 GMT, 24 January 2013
10:03 GMT, 24 January 2013
Discriminated against: Michael Nolan, pictured, has won an unfair dismissal case on the grounds that he was discriminated against because of his age
A 64-year-old car dealer nicknamed 'Yoda' by workmates and subjected to jibes from colleagues about his age has won an unfair dismissal case.
Workers at Evans Halshaw in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, changed Michael Nolan's car numberplate from OAB to OAP and was asked when his 65th birthday – and expected retirement – was, an employment tribunal heard.
Mr Nolan was service team leader at the dealership and claimed that bosses wanted to replace him with a younger employee when he retired.
The tribunal was told that principal dealer David Heeley frequently reminded Mr Nolan of his age and once introduced him as 'my 104-year-old service team leader'.
He told Mr Nolan that he had checked personnel records to find out when his 65th birthday was and asked him to swap jobs with Paul Brooks, a younger member of staff being groomed to replace Mr Nolan in his higher paid role.
Mr Nolan was dubbed 'Yoda' by staff after the Star Wars character – which the Nottingham tribunal explained was 'a small, wizened character who is several hundred years old'.
He stayed put in his job – but when a round of redundancies came up he was given the axe in February last year, after being put into a 'pool of one'.
He won his claim of unfair dismissal on the grounds of age discrimination.
The tribunal was told how Mr Heeley had 'a tendency to express himself in a way which suggests that he does not consider carefully when and how it is appropriate to make references to the protected characteristics of employees and others in the workplace'.
The tribunal said in its ruling: 'The respondent tolerated the playing of work related pranks and the use of age-related nicknames in its workplace.
Employer: Mr Nolan was employed at the Evans Halshaw dealership in Worksop, Nottinghamshire
'For example, on one occasion an employee of the respondent changed the letters of the claimant's number plate from OAB to OAP, although the tribunal accepts that the claimant found this to be humorous rather than offensive.
'Further, a number of the respondent's employees referred to the claimant as “Yoda”, a small, wizened character in Star Wars who is several hundred years old.'
Mr Heeley denied describing Mr Nolan as his '104-year-old service team leader', but the tribunal found that it was the type of remark he might make.
He was disciplined for an offensive email in July 2011 telling staff not to move cars from one dealership to another without a deposit being left, and the tribunal found it was evidence of his managerial style, which he also applied to Mr Nolan's age.
Insult: Staff referred to Mr Nolan as Yoda after the aged Star Wars character
The tribunal said in its ruling: 'Mr Heeley commented that he could see no problem with age-related banter “if everyone is getting on”.
'He went on to say that such banter was not the same as 'discrimination about the colour of someone's skin'.
'Whilst it is obviously the case that it is not necessary for employees to avoid all light-hearted references to the protected characteristics of other employees, the way in which Mr Heeley expressed himself left the tribunal to find that he did not regard age-related banter as being something which some employees might find offensive.'
It ruled that because Mr Nolan had been made redundant while no consideration was given to making Mr Brooks redundant instead he had been discriminated against.